Muslim Charity Organizations Under Scrutiny Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslim charity organizations have come under intense scrutiny in the United States. U.S. officials say some of the charities have links to terrorist groups in the Middle East. This week the FBI raided a Muslim charity in Dearborn, Mich. that was suspected of having ties to Iran and the Hezbollah terrorist organization.
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Muslim Charity Organizations Under Scrutiny

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Muslim Charity Organizations Under Scrutiny

Muslim Charity Organizations Under Scrutiny

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This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Cohen.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

In Dearborn, Michigan this week, FBI agents raided the offices of two Islamic charities. The government believes that one of them is actually a fundraising arm for the terrorist group Hezbollah.

NPR's Celeste Headlee reports.

CELESTE HEADLEE: The organization is called the Goodwill Charitable Organization and it's not related at all to Goodwill Industries, the venerable institution most Americans are already familiar with. But special agent Don Clenney says the Dearborn charity is under investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Ms. DAWN CLENNEY (Special Agent, FBI): The Goodwill Charitable Organization is shut down, no longer doing business. Bank accounts have been frozen.

HEADLEE: Clenney says another charity called al-Mabarrat was also raided on the same day as the Goodwill Charity.

Ms. CLENNEY: The al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization is still ongoing because it's not designated as being an organization affiliated with the terrorist group Hezbollah.

HEADLEE: Agents hauled a number of boxes out of the group's offices, but they didn't make any arrests or issue indictments. Clenney says the FBI had reason to believe that the group has been funneling money to terrorists in the Middle East. But the decision to shut down the Islamic charity came from the top, in Washington.

Ms. CLENNEY: The information was provided to the Office of Foreign Assets Control in Washington and the White House as they actually made the designation regarding this particular charity. Once they make this designation about a particular charity, then we executed a search warrant.

HEADLEE: Before the raid, FBI agents held a meeting with a number of local religious leaders, including Muslims, Christians and Jews. The FBI wants to avoid any misunderstandings, especially within Dearborn's large Muslim population. Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi says he's happy the FBI opened the dialogue, but he's still concerned there's a gap between investigations motivated by evidence and those that are launched on the orders of politicians.

Imam MOHAMMAD ALI ELAHI (Islamic House of Wisdom): Especially if the decision doesn't come from Justice Department. In that case we want to make sure that it really is not based on political agenda. And make sure that things are fair and investigated fully.

HEADLEE: There's still lingering resentment in Dearborn's Muslim community over the FBI's raid of another Islamic charity last year. Agents searched the offices of Life for Relief and Development but have never brought charges or made any arrests. That organization is demanding the FBI return what it seized. Imam Elahi says there've been a number of searches and seizures in Michigan over the past few years, but no successful prosecutions.

Imam ELAHI: After so many years after 9/11, we haven't found even one case of -like one suicide bomber or, you know, one terrorist or anybody being involved in any terrorism.

HEADLEE: Elahi says raiding Islamic charities in Dearborn without issuing indictments is making a difficult situation worse. He says Arab-Americans are already caught in a squeeze.

Imam ELAHI: We as ministry Muslims, we are attacked by extremists as being infidels and then we are attacked by our own neighbors (unintelligible) disrespected, insulted by them. That is really so painful.

HEADLEE: FBI agents also searched a number of other businesses and homes in the Dearborn area. The warrant against the Goodwill Charitable Organization is sealed, so agents aren't saying what they were looking for or what they found in the Dearborn offices. The FBI's coordinating with the U.S. Attorney's Office to determine if charges will be brought.

Celeste Headlee, NPR News, Detroit.

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